It has been a full week since the 2020 CARIFTA Aquatics Championships has been officially canceled due to the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic and although the team is disappointed, they are looking forward to other tournaments and a chance to prepare for next year’s CARIFTA.
The water polo portion was slated to get underway April 2 and run until April 5 at the Barbados Aquatics Center, in Wildey, Barbados.
“I was not surprised at all. Once the Olympics got delayed to next year, I completely understood that everything would be canceled, delayed or postponed, whether it be world championships, Pan American, Olympics or in this case, CARIFTA,” said Team Bahamas Water Polo Head Coach Laszlo “Coach Lotty” Borbely. He said he has spoken to the players who were obviously disappointed after putting in a lot of hard work over the past year leading up to competition.
“I spoke to everyone,” Borbely said. “We had to talk about the virus and the consequences. Obviously, at the beginning, we had to talk about the preparation and once CARIFTA got canceled, their reaction was disappointment because we had such a good preparation. We started to work very hard from last year in a Thanksgiving tournament and other tournaments as well.”
Borbely took the players to Coral Springs, Florida, to take part in a tournament in preparation for CARIFTA. He said he was able to see who would contribute significantly to the national team that would have been traveling to the CARIFTA Championships.
Last year, The Bahamas finished with three medals in CARIFTA water polo- silver in the under-14 (U14) mixed-age category, gold in the under-16 (U16) male category and bronze in the under-19 (U19) division. Team Bahamas’ goal was to repeat their triple gold medal haul from 2018.
Looking ahead to 2021, a few of the older players will not return, as they would have aged out of CARIFTA.
Once the national restrictions are rescinded, Borbely said players will return to the pool at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Swim Complex and resume training. He is also looking at some of the players training for the Junior Olympics in the United States in November and December of this year. After that, he intends to get teams ready for the U16 World Championships. That event has been postponed to a date yet to be announced. The original date was set for next month.
Borbely said he is proud to be the national coach. He said that other teams admire how the Bahamian players play hard and are strong but play fair. He said the Bahamian players are always friendly with the other players once out of the water.
Also, a few of his players have received scholarships to play water polo at the collegiate level in the United States.
“I’m very happy that they played a level of water polo that has granted them scholarships for different universities and colleges… the entire program is changing because of that,” said Borbely. “Bahamian water polo is absolutely improving. Everybody knows about it and the parents are very involved. The federation loves it and even Pan American posted on its website that (Gabriel) Sastre made it to a (NCAA) division one school.”
Currently, Saequan Miller and Johnathan Demeritte are playing water polo in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Other Bahamians such as Sastre, Alex Turnquest and Nicholas Wallace-Whitfield will be starting their collegiate careers this fall.
The water polo program started in The Bahamas back in 2007, under current water polo president Chris Illing.